Bicycle thieves and flat-roofed pubs
GIVEN THE past week’s news coverage, you might imagine that attacks on children by dangerous dogs are like buses and only come along in threes.
First we had the tragic death of five-month-old Cadey-Lee Deacon, killed by two flat-roofed pub rottweilers. (I call them “flat-roofed pub rottweilers” because that is a different breed to the common or garden “pub” rottweiler, as well as being a world away from the “normal” rottweiler you might see at a dog show or in the park.)
Then it emerged that four-year-old George Brown had had to undergo four hours of reconstructive surgery and have 200 stitches in his face after being attacked by a bulldog near his home in Huntingdon. I know not if this was a “council” bulldog or the more placid “cul de sac” breed. Suffice to say, it had serious previous and its owner now faces a spell in prison.
We then learn that two-year-old Harvey Lawrence is still in hospital in West Sussex after being attacked by another rottweiler (provenance unknown) earlier this week. Coincidence or conspiracy? Neither, really. The fact of the matter is that these things happen all the time. It’s only when a particularly newsworthy attack takes place that the Dangerous Dogs Debate re-enters the national agenda with every incident being accorded media attention.
In fact around 3,000 people a year are attacked by dogs, with many of the victims children. That’s over eight a day, yet no newspaper to my knowledge yet runs a regular column entitled “Today’s Dog Attacks”. So why is it happening and why are we putting up with it?
We must turn first to the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which prohibited the breeding, sale or exchange of four identified breeds: pit bull terriers, Japanese Tosas, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro – not the sort of animals you see advertised on the noticeboards at Tesco. The Act also sought to ban any other dog that appears to be “bred for fighting”, but was not specific about types of dog, so making enforcement prior to an attack almost impossible.
So what of the snarling beasts on chain-link leashes so beloved of feral hooded youths? (Dicks-on-a-string, one vet called them this week.) Ah, they’re Staffordshire bull terriers and, as such, are exempt. I do remember at the time of the debate suggesting that if the government couldn’t identify potentially dangerous dogs by breed, then it could perhaps do it by name. Thus, anything called Tyson, Rambo or Rooney would immediately be shipped off for the lethal injection. Fido and Rover would escape.
But even that isn’t the answer. Dogs are wild pack animals, not programmable toys. Any dog can turn nasty – just ask Princess Anne or Roy Hattersley, both of whom have been hauled before the beak to answer for their canine’s criminality. And you yourself may not realise that you’re harbouring a Fred Westie or an Alsatian Capone in the bosom of your own family until it’s too late.
Perhaps bringing back the dog licence is the solution. I remember when they were seven shillings and sixpence, or 37.5p in new money. (My dad would only let us have a black and white dog because he thought the colour licence was more expensive.) But this time let’s make it really worthwhile, say £500 a year. And enforce it.
I can think of little that would give me more pleasure than watching a team of armed police work their way around a sink estate, confiscating snarling dogs and towing away uninsured cars at the same time. And at least if you did get bitten, you’d know that the beast’s owner had enough money to make it worth your while suing him.
NEW LAWS banning age discrimination in the workplace come into effect next week. The government wants people to be able to work longer, particularly as we’re living longer. It will therefore be unlawful to sack someone or deny them training just because they’re old, and employers won’t be allowed to specify an age range when advertising for new employees.
Have they really thought this through? Do we really want to end up with the situation where we’ve got 60-year-old lap dancers and 17-year-old brain surgeons? I don’t think so.
WATCHING GMTV over port and kedgeree the other morning, I happened upon a report detailing the amount of debt the average Brit has run up. It appears to be a modest £3,000 per head, a fraction of what I owe to the banks and the credit card bandits.
What really caught my eye though was the appearance of a representative from a respectable pawn-broking firm, describing how a representative sample of respectable people use his firm’s services for easy short term loans. Hmm.
I happened to be discussing this in the Dog and Blunkett that night amongst a group of friends, one of whom is a cyclist. (Yes, I know.) He related how he’d been advised to pop along to his local, modern multiple pawn shop after his bicycle saddle had been stolen. (I am advised that these things aren’t exactly cheap.)
There, in the corner of the shop, was a pile of such saddles, only not the kind you buy in bike shops: these were all attached to seat posts with reflectors on them. They could only have been stolen from parked, unattended bikes. There was no other explanation.
The bike seats were priced at £4 apiece. This means that the seller would have raised roughly £1.33 from passing them on to the pawnbroker. And in a delightful economic synergy, £1.33 was just enough to buy you a can of Special Brew from the off licence next door.
Don’t you just love the free market?
WE MUST return, regrettably, to the case of Cadey-Lee Deacon. Now I know that this isn’t going to earn me many friends, but if we accept the fact that we can’t change the outcome of this terrible accident, can’t we also accept the fact that in the course of this poor child’s short life, an abrupt end isn’t exactly the worst thing that could have happened?
Bear with me. Let’s examine the evidence. Cadey-Lee had been branded from birth with a stupid name by parents so moronic that they left her where passing, flat-roofed, froth-mouthed hounds could get at her on a sink estate in Leicester.
So what will those caring parents miss? Well, they’ll never get to see their little girl terrorise the elderly neighbours with her equally feral pre-pubescent friends. They’ll never get to go round and threaten those neighbours themselves when they finally summon up the courage to complain to the council.
They’ll never get to look on admiringly as she pulls on the Top Shop thong reading “Cum And Get Me”. They’ll never get to see her first tattoo, pointing down at her arse like the advertisement for a free sample that it is. They won’t be there to dab TCP on the septic belly button piercing.
They’ll never get to physically assault the teacher who fails to show Cadey-Lee sufficient “respect” by asking her to stop calling him an “arsehole” on the very rare occasions she turns up for classes.
They’ll never get to share that tender moment when she tells them she’s up the duff by any one of a dozen 14-year-old packrats. They’ll never get to help her fill in her first, illiterately-scrawled benefit claim. They won’t be there to help her move into the council flat. And they won’t be there to celebrate the succession of multi-coloured, junkie-fathered, grandchildren that follow.
And you think that I’m being harsh? Sorry, but sometimes the truth hurts.
O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who doesn't think that Extras is excrutiatingly funny, of anyone not lusting after 93-year-old Twiggy in that Marks and Spencer TV ad, or of anyone who's just taken on a Brazilian cleaning lady.